Chiquita takes the reins to resolve Honduran conflict

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Chiquita has bought a group of three Honduran plantations, formerly known as Tres Hermanas, following more than a year of conflict involving the former owner of the Honduran banana company and independent workers’ union SITRAINBA. Until now Chiquita branded and marketed the bananas produced by the Tres Hermanas group, but it now owns the company, having sacked the previous management and rehired the workforce. After several months of uncertainty, in December, Rainforest Alliance suspended its certification of the plantations.
Previously workers who joined the independent SITRAINBA trade union - affiliated to new agroindustrial worker’ federation Festagro - faced systematic discrimination because of their union membership. The case was taken to the Rainforest Alliance and Chiquita, as part of an international Make Fruit Fair campaign. Following investigations by the certifier, the company’s suspension was announced.  Chiquita's response, after consultations with Festagro over the fate of the workforce, was to buy the company in February and run the farms themselves. The three plantations have been renamed Agrícola Bananera Santa Rita.
The union federation, Festagro, reports that not only has this case forced a tightening of Rainforest Alliance certification on the fundamental issue of trade union freedom, but that the new owners have authorised access to trade union organisers to raise workers’ awareness of their right to be represented in an independent organisation.
Manuel Rodriguez, Chiquita’s senior vice president of government and international affairs said of the new arrangements: "Following months of careful efforts to resolve this matter through consultations with the government, labour leaders, Rainforest Alliance and other NGOs, we are delighted to now have put an end to the problem in a way which ensures that jobs are not lost  and workers can exercise their freedom of association without interference."
Iris Munguia of the Honduran Agroindustrial Workers’ Federation Festagro confirmed that one of their member unions is indeed free to operate in the plantations. “The rehiring at the beginning of March,” she said, “has brought both economic benefits and better treatment for the workers.”

Sources: Chiquita Brands International and Festagro.